Author: Tim Green
When designing any web application or web site, there are a number of steps that can be taken to make the whole process much easier. Planning a web application need not be a meticulous process, but it should be thorough, as there are always elements that could be expanded on, removed, amended, and replaced at any time. Knowing that these changes occur, whether by natural evolution or by client decision, is an essential part of working with any form of scripting technology or database, and planning will make your life much easier.
Over the next couple of chapters we will be looking at a number of different steps that can be taken in both the planning of the web site itself and in the development of the database. Not all of the steps mentioned here would be relevant to all of your projects, and it is very possible that additional steps may need to be taken with more complex projects. However, what we provide here is an essential grounding, a starting point on which you can build.
In this chapter, we will look at the structure of a dynamic web site. We will take an initial design brief, and from there plan the features, functionality, and form of the site itself. We will also look at the type of data that the site will need in order to fulfill the brief, and determine an initial plan for structuring our database. We will also examine the processes of the site itself, and begin to map them with the aid of flowcharts.
When we talk about designing a web site, one of the most common analogies used is the "Virtual Store"; due in some part to the large increase of eCommerce and eBusiness web sites that are available today. It is often used in Business to Business (B2B) seminars, as an easy introduction to the less technically minded about the subject in hand.
In many respects, building a web application does not really fulfill this typecasting. By definition, "virtual" relates to something in the imagination, or something that is created or simulated by using some form of computer technology, in this respect it accurately defines the end product. For the serious web professional though, these "Virtual Stores" take form well before finger has touched keyboard. When you are building a real store, in the real world, before you do anything you must get the right information down on paper in the form of a blueprint, otherwise the whole structure collapses, and the same rules apply for the creation of a virtual store.
As a web professional, you are responsible for the overall structure of this store, how it functions, how it feels, and how it is perceived. In the real world you would be called an architect.